Maputo is an African city largely overlooked in more recent years by the British leisure traveller. A former playground for the rich and famous, the civil war took its toll and it fell out of fashion. That attitude however should, like the civil war, be relegated to the history books. Maputo, I would soon come to realise, has so much to offer, not least the infamous night safaris. More on that later…
There really is only one address when staying in Maputo and that is The Polana Serena Hotel, the Grande Old Dame of Maputo, in keeping with some of the worldwide greats including Raffles in Singapore, The Ritz in London and the Copacabana Palace in Rio.
We arrived by air conditioned transfer, straight from the boat that had brought us across the bay from Machangulo Beach Lodge. We all realised very quickly why 1 or 2 nights at The Polana would be preferable to an immediate onward journey to the airport. We were hot and hungry, so to be greeted by Ilda in the airy lobby with fruit cocktails and then swiftly shown to our beautiful air conditioned rooms was the perfect start to our weekend in Maputo. Having quickly freshened up, we made our way to the Aquarius sushi bar for lunch. I could have happily sat there all afternoon, cocktail in hand, watching the boats drift by, but there was shopping to be done! Everyone needs a souvenir.
To my absolute delight, the arts and craft market was literally a 4 minute stroll from The Polana, Here you could watch the craftsman at work, bending wire into small helicopters or carving beautiful salad bowls before you start that time honoured tradition of bartering, which sadly I am rubbish at.
Having spent far too much money, but feeling very satisfied with my purchases, I wandered back to The Polana to get ready for dinner and our highly anticipated Night Safari.
Dinner was served in the Varanda restaurant where we were able to experience what Serena does best – an amazing and very extensive buffet, but with an extra twist – a BBQ on the terrace. I could not resist the lobster and more Piri Piri prawns!
So after dinner we met in the lobby, where our wonderful local host from Turkish Airways along with our guide, Abdul, from Dana Tours hustled us into our waiting vehicle and we were off on our Night Safari; or what you and I would most probably call…… A Pub Crawl! This really was one of the best fam trip evenings on my many years of trips. We were taken to all of the best bars, finishing in a very cool bar / nightclub. Unsurprisingly there wasn’t an elephant or rhino in sight!
The following morning we were up and ready for a day of sightseeing with Abdul. A half day city tour is a great way of seeing the main sights of Maputo, including the food market, the botanical gardens and the railway station (yes really – it is stunningly beautiful and was used for some of the filming of Blood Diamonds). We finished with the very modern fish market that now offers the added benefit of being able to choose your fish and then to go and enjoy it for lunch at one of the adjacent cafes.
In the afternoon we experienced a very different side of Maputo with a walking tour of Mafalala. Mafalala is a central township that has given birth to a number of important political figures, writers, musicians and sporting heroes including their most famous footballing son – Eusebio. We walked along narrow dusty passages and watched the children playing football. A stark contrast indeed.
Our final night at The Polana was a very special night indeed. We had a private room in their fine dining restaurant, Delagoa, and were made to feel like royalty. The staff were fabulous and the food superb. A reason in its own right to spend a night at The Polana.
No trip would have been complete however without a visit to the gorgeous spa or a bit of R and R by the pool. I was most upset though when a very concerned guest told me that I should consider moving in to the shade to protect my very pale skin. Did she not realise that I had been working on this tan for a week and was now a beautiful bronzed colour! Clearly it was time to return to Blighty where my gorgeous suntanned colour would be appreciated.
We were whisked off to the airport just as the president of Mozambique arrived at The Polana Serena Hotel. We may not have been VIP’s, but during our weekend in Maputo the Serena staff at The Polana had indeed treated us like royalty.